California residents filed suit to prevent the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) from being used to prevent them from possessing, obtaining, or manufacturing marijuana for their personal medical use.
The Commerce Clause empowers Congress to prevent the possession and manufacturing of cannabis for one’s personal medical use. The CSA did not exceed Congress’s Commerce Clause authority.
California authorized the use of marijuana for medicinal purpose. California residents filed suit to prevent the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) from being used to prevent them from possessing, obtaining, or manufacturing marijuana for their personal medical use.
Does the Commerce Clause empower Congress to prevent the possession and manufacturing of cannabis for one’s personal medical use?
Yes, the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to prevent the possession and manufacturing of cannabis for one’s personal medical use.
Justice O’Connor argued that the Supreme Court’s opinion gave Congress the power to legislate broadly based on questionable authority, that possession is not commercial activity, and even if the activity in this case was commercial, the Government failed to show that it had a substantial effect on interstate commerce or was necessary to an interstate regulatory scheme.
Justice Thomas argued that the “substantial effects” test established in Wickard and used by the Supreme Court in this opinion is too easily manipulated and inconsistent with the Constitution.
Justice Scalia asserted that the Necessary and Proper Clause gives Congress the regulatory authority over intrastate activities that are not part of interstate commerce. He believed that Congress could regulate noneconomic local activity if the regulation is a necessary part of a more general regulation of interstate commerce, and that the relevant question is whether the chosen means are reasonably adapted to the attainment of a legitimate end under the commerce power.
The Supreme Court held that regulating marijuana meant for home consumption is within Congress’ commerce power because it has a substantial effect on supply and demand for marijuana in the national market, applying the test established in Wickard v. Filburn. In Wickard, the Supreme Court held that the Commerce Clause empowered Congress to regulate a farmer’s wheat that was not put on the market.
The respondents in this case argued that Wickard was different from the present case for three reasons. First, they argued that the regulating law in Wickard exempted small farming operations. The Supreme Court held that the fact that the Wickard farmer’s impact on the market was trivial by itself was not a sufficient reason to remove him from the scope of the regulation.
The respondents also argued that Wickard involved a commercial farm, which was a quintessential economic activity, while they themselves did not sell marijuana. The Supreme Court countered this point, establishing that, while the farmer was a commercial farmer, the Supreme Court did not treat his cultivation of wheat for home consumption as part of his commercial farming.
Finally, the respondents argued that the record in Wickard established that the wheat impacted market prices. The Supreme Court countered by holding that Congress did not need particularized findings to support their belief that the cultivation of medicinal marijuana would substantially affect the interstate marijuana market—they only needed a rational basis, for believing this, and a rational basis existed. The Supreme Court also rejected the respondent’s argument that the present issue was analogous to the issues in Lopez and Morrison, because, according to the Supreme Court, the present regulated activities are quintessentially economic.